Driver Rescued After 10 Hours Buried in Snow

Published in 19 December, 2020

At a Glance

  • Kevin Kresen and his car were buried in multiple feet of snow.

  • He called 911 several times over the course of 10 hours.

  • A New York State Police police sergeant found him while digging through the snow.

First the power steering went out.

Then the car slid into a ditch, leaving driver Keven Kresen stranded for more than 10 hours in freezing temperatures and a wicked winter storm in upstate New York.

Kresen and his car got buried by multiple feet of snow. Invisible to rescuers and passersby alike, Kresen made several calls to 911 between midnight and 10 a.m. Thursday. But no one knew exactly where he was.

Meanwhile, New York State Police Sgt. Jason Cawley reported for duty Thursday morning, taking stock of the havoc wrought overnight by the nor’easter The Weather Channel named Winter Storm Gail. Cawley reached out to local emergency departments to see who needed help. A Tioga County dispatcher told him about Kresen.

Cawley, a 22-year veteran who doesn’t do much patrol work these days, set out in his cruiser to look for the lost driver.

(MORE: Winter Storm Gail Leaves at Least Five Dead After Record Snowfall)

Pings from Kresen’s cell phone had narrowed his location down to about a 3-mile stretch of State Route 17C in Owego, about 20 miles west of Binghamton where a record 40 inches of snow fell at a local airport during the storm. The highway was lined with 5-foot snow drifts, and it was still coming down. The only traffic was tow trucks and other police cars.

The outside temperature was 19 degrees.

“When I realized that we weren’t going to be able to see him from the side of the road, that he was camouflaged someplace, I started to climb snow banks and look over the edge of snow banks to see if we could locate him,” Cawley told weather.com in an interview Friday afternoon.

The last call dispatchers received from Kresen pinged in a more concise area.

“I parked my car and thought, ‘OK, I’m going to methodically search from around right here,'” Cawley said.

He pushed through the snow to try and find a mailbox with an address on it.

“As I started to dig I punched my arm into the snow bank and about a foot and a half under the snow was a car window, the driver side car window of the vehicle I was looking for. I was actually standing right next to the car and had no idea that there was a vehicle in the snow bank,” Cawley said.

“It was a bit of a shocker. I thought I was going to touch a mailbox and I found the needle in the haystack that I’d been looking for.”

He knocked on the window.

“Mr. Kresen replied and said yes I’m in here and I can’t feel my feet,” Cawley said. “So I knew we had a medical emergency, we had to act fast and get Mr. Kresen out.”

A stranger who Cawley doesn’t know stopped to help

“We dragged him out of the vehicle and put him in my patrol car to try to warm him up,” Cawley recounted.

“I’m convinced he wouldn’t have survived much longer. He wasn’t shivering, so his body had given up trying to heat itself. I believe his body was starting to shut down.”

Cawley took Kresen to a local fire station where an ambulance was waiting to take him to the hospital. Cawley said all the first responders and road crew working during the course of that day and night should be praised for their dedication.

The winter storm caused hundreds of vehicle crashes, and at least five deaths were blamed on the weather. Kresen wasn’t one of them.

“He was just glad to be out of the snow bank, he was sure of that,” Cawley said.

“And it turns out there’s a happy ending to the story. He’s going to be fine.”

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